When Your Foot Pain is Caused by Problems in Your Back

Foot pain may be a telltale sign of an underlying spinal condition.

This article examines what foot pain symptoms are indicators of something back related.

In addition, it gives an overview of common spinal conditions with foot pain symptoms, so that patients have a better idea of what their foot pain involves.

Your spine is like a signal tower, sending messages throughout your body.

When you feel pain in your foot, you may think that the problem is something simple like wearing uncomfortable high heels or standing for long periods of time.

While foot symptoms can be caused by these irritations, often foot pain is a signal of underlying back problems.

Today we’ll go through foot pain symptoms so that you can determine whether you should get checked for a spinal condition.

We’ll also look at common spinal conditions that cause foot pain.


How to Know if Your Foot Pain is Caused by Spinal Conditions

Foot pain can arise from a variety of conditions, some of them isolated to your foot.

For example, bone spurs, bunions, ingrown toenails, tendinitis and more are all potential conditions behind foot pain.

In these cases, foot pain is unrelated to back problems.

So, how do you know if spinal conditions are at play? There are some clear signs that your foot pain is caused by back problems.

The symptoms listed below may indicate that your foot pain is more than meets the eye:

  • Foot pain on only one side: Typically, a spinal condition will only affect one side of your body. That’s because when a nerve becomes pinched, it travels from your lower back down one leg to your foot.
  • Accompanying leg pain: This is a telltale sign that you have an underlying spinal condition. If your foot pain is accompanied by leg pain, it’s likely that a nerve is affected.
  • Difficulty raising your foot: If you’re having trouble raising your foot, especially forward, and you feel pain and numbness as you try, you are likely dealing with a spinal condition. If walking on your heels is more comfortable, this is a clear sign to see a doctor.
  • Difficulty walking on your tiptoes: Check if you can walk on your tiptoes. Depending on which part of the sciatic nerve is affected, you may find it impossible to engage your tiptoes.
  • Your foot feels heavy: When your foot feels heavy and you find it difficult to flex your ankle and lift the front of your foot, you may have spinal nerve problems. You may also experience pain along your calves and over your foot.

These symptoms are good clues that your foot pain is a symptom of an underlying spinal condition.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your physician.


The Key Symptom: Sciatica


If you’re experiencing foot pain accompanied by the symptoms above, it’s likely that you have sciatica.

Sciatica is a medical symptom that results from pinching or pressing on your sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your foot.

It can cause pain and numbness all along the nerve.

As you might have guessed, sciatica is usually felt on one side only. Depending on how and where the sciatic nerve is pinched, you will experience pain in different areas along your foot, leg and/or lower back.


Underlying Conditions of Sciatica Pain

Now that you know your foot pain is likely a sign of sciatica, let’s look at the underlying conditions of sciatica.

Here are six of the most common spinal conditions related to foot pain.


1. Lumbar herniated disc

One common underlying spinal condition of sciatica is a herniated disc.

When a herniated disc occurs in the lower back (lumbar region), it can compress or put pressure on the sciatic nerve.

In general, a herniated disc happens when the inside cushion pushes out of its exterior. This disk then rubs against nearby nerves and cause pain.


2. Lumbar spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the painful condition of nerves and vertebrae compressing together because of narrowed spaces along the spine.

This often happens naturally due to old age or wear-and-tear, and can cause nerves like the sciatic nerve to become pinched.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is difficult to cure and often requires decompression or surgery to resolve.


3. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis occurs when vertebrae slip out of place, usually along the lower back.

This causes vertebrae to rub painfully together or against nerves. Subsequently, the sciatic nerve can become pinched and cause the foot symptoms above.


4. Lumbar degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease affects the health of your spinal discs.

Over time, your discs wear down, which means that they dry out and crack. As a result, you have less cushioning between vertebrae and a higher likelihood of getting a herniated disc.

As your discs weaken, you may also get a pinched sciatic nerve and experience foot symptoms.


5. Facet joint arthritis

Facet joints are a key part of how your body moves.

They’re located at the base of the spine and are able to move easily due to cartilage in between them.

Facet joint arthritis is when this cartilage breaks down and causes painful rubbing. This condition may also cause the sciatic nerve to become pinched.


6. Osteoarthritis

Finally, general osteoarthritis can cause foot symptoms.

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage between joints wears down and causes painful rubbing.

It can affect any joints throughout the body, including the lumbar region.


Get Your Foot Pain Diagnosed

Now that we’ve given you an overview of common spinal-related symptoms and six common conditions, you’ll have a better sense of why your foot pain is happening.

Remember that if you have any of the symptoms of a spinal condition, including foot pain, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor.

He/she will diagnose your pain and be able to offer treatment options depending on your specific circumstances.

You may also consider turning to a chiropractor near your or a chiropractor near your area to look at your foot pain. He/she will diagnose your spinal condition and give you a wide range of treatment options, including natural and non-surgical opportunities.

Many of my patients and potential patients also are not aware they can see a chiropractor without insurance.

You always have the option to pay out-of-pocket for your visits.

If you’re experiencing foot pain, it may be related to back problems that require a doctor or a chiropractor to treat.

Listen to the signals that your spine is sending you and seek medical consultation.

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients.

He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr.

Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He created the Alaska Back Pain Protocol, which has helped thousands say goodbye to back pain.